In May 2001 I was an Artist-in-Residence at Sunset Elementary. The residency spanned two weeks, during which time I conducted art activities with students in first through fifth grade and kindergarten (students ranged from 5 to 11 years of age.)

Fourth and fifth grade students were instructed and guided through the creative process culminating in the completion of a permanent wall mural.

During the first week of the residency, each class visited the mural site where safety issues and material concerns were discussed by the students themselves. They brainstormed ideas for a mural theme, elements, and composition. Approximately 150 students participated in the creation of  the indoor mural.
This mural (in a hallway with flourescent lighting) was difficult
to photograph, both from a perspective standpoint and also for accuracy of color.
The wall surface at Sunset School was lightly textured in a swirling pattern, which was a challenge to paint application. Also, the mural had to incorporate an existing border of water waves along the wall's base (the border is visible behind the fish.)

Students focused on the broader theme of their state (Oregon) while selecting elements/images to arrange into a single composition. The large mountain in the center is Mount Hood, a nearby dormant volcano. The fishermen/netters signify today's Native Americans taking salmon at the Columbia River at Celio Falls. Salmon are depicted in the act of spawning. The beaver is the state animal and the eagle was intended to be a statement about the freedoms enjoyed in the USA. The watermelon appears visually within the "water" area, and creating an unintended pun (which was noted by a student after the mural was completed.)
The small image at right is of the mid-section of the mural.

The detail images below are contained within this section (except the fish, of which only the tail is visible in this mid-section view.
Details from the mural. 

Students were primarily concerned
with line.
Each detail image demonstrates
how lines were layered to create
form and build energy into the
finished mural.

In several areas lines formed
the "skeleton" or framework
over which semi-transparent
color was washed.
The row of evergreen trees and the locomotive are examples of this kind
of paint treatment.

I especially enjoy the uninhibited
and spontaneous way in which
children make art.
Given a container of pink
and red paint, one student
decided the fish should be
The result was a wonderful
example of an exercise
in memory application
and interpretation.
This student had been on
a field trip to a Columbia
River dam where he learned
about the life cycle of salmon.
Not only is the fish in the
mural spawning, there
are also more reddish eggs
in the rocks immediately
below the fish.
C.S. Poppenga
Sunset School, Hermiston, Oregon (USA)
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